Moving away from Lush products – Lush responsible for building on Greenbelt land in Poole, Dorset

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There are many reasons to move away from Lush products, most commonly you will read about their continued use of Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS), glitter and other unnecessary ingredients in their products. I have another (little known) reason to add to the list! So read on, dear readers….

Lush is an easily accessible place to start going zero waste, since they are available online and on the high street. I’d been a little bit annoyed about Lush’s fairly regular price hikes of late – their shampoo and conditioner bars can go about £1-£2 per year. At least they have since I started using them. That’s a significant increase to bear, especially when you have very long and thick hair, like me! It’s also been annoying to buy their metal containers, only for them to change the shape of their products yet again.

Most recently, they changed the formulation of one of their soap bars- yet didn’t feel the need to advertise the fact. It literally burnt the skin on my face! I did get a full refund, but all of this combined with the fact that around here – Lush are responsible for building their factories on greenbelt land.

I live in the same town where Lush creates all their products and where they were founded. I was proud to support a local company, but the more you get to learn about them – the more you learn that they hardly employ any local people. The majority of their workforce are Eastern European and they bring them over to work here, claiming that they are better workers or more reliable. However, local people who have worked for them will tell you it’s more down to their poor working conditions. Their founder – Mr Constantine, demanded recently that Poole Council (now BCP Council) allow him to build another factory locally, or he would move virtually the whole operation to Eastern Europe. Let’s put this into context – Lush makes up around 50% of the Nuffield Industrial Estate in Poole – a significant loss if they were to go!

So, not only are they getting their new factory on former green belt land within the Borough, part of the deal was that also a number of homes were built on this farmland too. Thus resulting in even more concreting over, loss of wildlife habitats on our precious heathland, increased traffic on our roads and so on. You can read more about all of this, should it interest you in the Poole Local Plan. All of this is to say, that was the nail in the coffin of my support of this local company. They proclaim so loudly to support the environment, sea birds habitats and so on – but for all their so-called ethics, it seems they will very much pick and choose to suit themselves. Apparently the quality of life of local people, local air quality, local wildlife – they are just not their concern, but their profits are. So, I am taking my business elsewhere.

I’m pleased to say that a quick internet search turned up a Yorkshire Company called Friendly Soap. They have a certification from the Ethical Consumer Organisation. Their prices are beyond reasonable – less than a third of what Lush charges and their P&P was lower too. No SLS, no triclosan, no plastic, no parabens and cruelty free. A wonderful smelling package bursting with the scent of rosemary, lavender, orange and lime has just landed on my doorstep. I look forward to reporting back 🙂

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Why Thermos Flasks and other glass vacuum flasks are not Zero Waste!

I’m publishing this post as a warning to all that purchasing a Thermos brand or other brand flask, with a glass vacuum liner is just about the WORST choice you can make when trying to live a Zero Waste lifestyle. They are promoted as an alternative to buying drinks out and will potentially save you money.

I grew up with my parents taking them everywhere – in fact they still do! It always used to be the case that you could buy a new glass liner, if yours ever broke. I chose a glass lined one because they are known to keep drinks hotter for much, much longer than metal walled flasks and I thought I would be able to replace the parts as needed. But be warned- not any more! You have to buy a whole new flask – you cannot buy a replacement branded or otherwise, not anywhere! This means your entire plastic flask has to go in the bin. Let me tell you that I am completely horrified at this state of affairs. I hope that Thermos gets bombarded with complaints which forces them to bring back the replacement parts.

IMG_5684So, you can expect to be shelling out for the entire cost of a new flask every time yours breaks and having to live with the knowledge that you are adding non-recyclable plastic to the World’s landfill sites. I wonder just how many perfectly good flask shells are sitting in the bin, for want of a glass liner. Honestly, the thought makes me feel slightly sick!

I’d love to hear if anyone knows of a truly Zero Waste flask – one that you only have to buy once!

Reusable cloth nappies

I’m always aiming to be zero waste, and had thoroughly researched cloth nappies on the internet from probably my whole pregnancy! About 5 months before my baby was born, I spotted a cloth nappy bundle on my local Facebook selling group. It was the works – nappies, covers, liners and boosters for £45. In the few days it took me to arrange a time to meet up with the seller, she was so desperate to sell them as she was moving house – she’d dropped the price to £25! It turned out they were brand new, she’d bought them from another lady who’d never used them. Then she’d been gifted a year’s supply of disposables and never used them. I couldn’t believe my luck! All in all I got:

4 small Motherease Airflow wraps in white (RRP £12.99 ea)

4 medium Motherease Airflow wraps in white (RRP £12.99 ea)

4 large Motherease Airflow wraps (RRP £13.99 ea)

10 Motherease snap-in booster pads in natural (RRP £2.50 ea)

14 Motherease one size cloth nappies in natural (RRP £10.99 ea)

4 rolls of paper liners (RRP £7.99 ea)

TOTAL Price new £370.70

So, I’ll be saving money against disposables in no time at all! I also picked up a Tots Bots lockable nappy bucket (RRP £12.99) and 2 mesh bags (RRP £8.99), plus about 10 white Tots Bots Bamboozle nappies (RRP around £15 ea, which we haven’t even tried yet!) off eBay for 50p and got another on Freecycle. I use one for nappies and cloth wipes and one for disposables.

I did write in this post about how the cloth nappies weren’t working for us all in the first 6 months until weaning started. Motherease are meant to be one size, but you have to fold them over initially. This makes them incredibly bulky and my baby is very slim. They were absolutely huge on him in the first few months – really looking quite ridiculous on him. Looks aside, he couldn’t seem to bend his legs properly and every time we tried them, he wouldn’t sleep. We couldn’t cope with no sleep and it wasn’t doing him any good, so we stuck with disposables regrettably. I cringed every time I had to look at the plastic piling up in our bin. We had to request a larger bin 😦 It was a very hot summer here in the UK and he seemed to overheat in these bulky nappies, which I’m sure was a contributing factor too. All that aside, I can safely say that I wouldn’t have fancied having to scrape all that liquid newborn poo off them either.

Basically, we started using them at about 7 months; prompted by the terrible smell coming from the so-called ‘Pampers Pure’ disposables. They smelt like pine disinfectant straight out of the packet and worse once my LO had wee’d in them!!! When he got a combination fungal and eczema infection all over the nappy area, I decided it was time to try the cloth again and we haven’t looked back! We do still use one disposable every night, as it’s not recommended to put them in cloth at night, whilst they’re still having a night feed. So this may change in the future – although he seems to be a heavy wetter, so I think it’s going to take a lot of boosting.

I actually love the cloth now, they’re so easy to wash and require no rinse cycle at all. I just follow Motherease’s own instructions and wash them on a 60 degree ‘hygiene’ wash in my Miele machine. They come out perfect every time and I sometimes tumble dry them in the winter, to get them dry in time. We also live in a very hard water area, so I think if I didn’t tumble dry them sometimes they’d end up like cardboard, as the towels do. Although, I’ve just bought a heated airer which is pretty miserly on the old electricity, so I’m hoping this will possibly eliminate tumble dryer use.

14 nappies could last up to 3 days, but once they’re wet – 2 days worth is about all I can fit in one cycle in my machine. So we basically wash every 2 days. The wraps dry almost instantly. They come up perfectly every time; I wash using a spray stain remover where needed, Fairy Non-Bio (because it suits us and eco detergents are NOT recommended), 50ml white vinegar as a fabric softener and 1 tbsp soap crystals as a water softener and stain remover in wash.

We’ll have to see where this cloth nappy journey takes us over the next year or so!

More Shocking Truths About Frugalwoods!!!

The Truth about Frugalwoods is one of my all-time highest read blog posts. As this is a topic you all like to read about, I’ve been doing some more digging. I have even shocked myself with what I’ve pulled up about them this time – hold onto your hats people!!! I share this because I want to warn others to be very careful where and from whom you take advice, not just on the internet but in real-life too. Some close family members were recently duped out of their entire retirement and inheritance from someone purporting to give ‘financial advice’. Not only should you check out what you are being told, but also their background. Do they have qualifications to advise you? Insurance? Does it all add up?

I had heard some rumblings on the internet that the Frugalwoods are not being truthful about their income. All you ever read on their blog is that they had good jobs when they were working, in the not-for-profit sector and they make out that they are now ‘retired’ in the country. Well, everyone knows about working for a charity in Britain – most people would be lucky to be paid the National Minimum Wage. But even higher up the career ladder, you will not be getting rich. I guess we could probably lump together the Public Sector as not-for-profit, as the NHS for example, certainly does not pay most of its staff well either. A nurse starts out on around £21,000 a year here in the UK.

So it was a little bit shocking to dig around for Mr Frugalwoods tax returns online, (thanks to this MrMoneyMustache forum thread) and find out that he earnt a mere £209,735 in the financial year ending 2016, as the Executive Director of a company. Not retired at all! According to what I’ve read online, that would make him amongst the top 5% of US earners. But here in the UK that kind of income is only paid to the top 1%. Let’s put it this way – the Prime Minister of Great Britain only earns £150,402! Gosh, it must be nice for all those people who think they’re donating to a not-for-profit company in the USA – to find out how much they are paying their staff. Claiming only to exist to do good and then having people taking home salaries like that!!!! Mind you, there was recently a shocking episode of Dispatches on Channel 4 which uncovered similar ridiculous amounts that Housing Association bosses are making, whilst plenty of people are going homeless. We do live in a very unjust world.

Frugality, when one half of the couple is bringing home that kind of money is a very different thing from the likes of say….Jack Monroe (a single mother trying to exist on benefits with her child and struggling to feed herself). That’s 7x the average £30,000 income for men in the UK. And then Mrs Frugalwoods earns money on top from writing for various sources. I stopped following their blog a while ago, as it just didn’t seem to ring true to me and this confirms my gut feeling once again. Let me know in the comments whether or not you’re going to continue reading their blog.

The Concept of Commodification

More musings from the Story of Stuff book:

Because we spend so much of our time chasing after money, to buy stuff that we don’t need, that promises us the world but delivers none of it – our communities are suffering. We spend so much time on the above, that we’re not available to be present and useful amongst our local community. This feeds our discontent and unhappiness because people in our local community could meet our need for relationship. We can have our emotional needs met by having a chat with a neighbour. We can have logistical needs met, by a neighbour bringing us a meal, babysitting, dog-walking, offering a lift or taking in our mail whilst we’re away.

Ironically, all of these things have now been commodified in our consumerist society and are available to buy from strangers, at a price! Probably most people don’t even know their neighbours these days, since all they do is go to work early and arrive home late. They are too busy, too stressed, time-poor and over-scheduled. No wonder we have increasing amounts of isolated elderly, or even depressed and overweight adults and children in our society. And the solution is really so simple!

If you’re a systems thinker, than you might liken this phenomenon to a negative feedback loop. A problem or problems, that cause an effect that only serves to add to the original problem. We now have to work harder, to pay for the kinds of service that friends and neighbours used to provide for free. This only serves to add to our stress levels and lack of time. So you can see how the downward spiral continues!

More Musings on the Story of Stuff – Branding & Marketing

As I said yesterday, I’m currently reading this book:

Today, in the chapter on distribution I struck upon something horrifying. I guess I sort of knew this already, but seeing it in black and white is even more shocking. I’m sure we all know that most companies out there don’t actually make the stuff they sell, but they buy it in and have unknown manufacturers make it for them. We’ve seen this so much in the clothing industry where brands like H&M and Primark have clothes made up in India and take no responsibility for the working practices of those in their supply chain. This is all part of these companies plans to cut costs, basically by abdicating responsibility.

This efficiency driven, cost-cutting is pervasive. Companies don’t make the stuff they sell, they simply brand it. Apple don’t make computers, but they sure as heck have created a brand that people crave. H&M don’t make clothes, Nike doesn’t make trainers. They all simply buy the garments and items from producers, or the parts to assemble them and often not even from the same factory, but from multiple producers. It’s quite possible that one factory churns out the exact same product for multiple retailers.

So really, let’s face it – it’s often not the item we are buying, but we’ve been sold on the brand. The founder of Nike even admitted that the company once saw themselves as production oriented, but that they now understand their most important function is to market the product. So guess where they put all their money? Advertising. And often this advertising isn’t even for a specific product, it’s all about the image they want to associate with their brand. Nike aren’t selling your trainers, they are selling you a fashion statement that in this climate will probably be outdated in a mere 2 weeks!

Biomimicry

I’m currently reading this book: The Story of Stuff. How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health – and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard.

I’m ashamed to say that I picked it up in a charity shop about 4 years ago, started to read it, stopped and then it went back on the shelf for years! Let’s just say it’s quite heavy going and American-centric, but there are a lot of relevant points to anyone, living anywhere in the world.

Today, I was interested to learn of the concept of ‘biomimicry‘. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that term used and described in this particular way before. But I wanted to make a note of it for future reference. Biomimicry is apparently a trend in modern design, in which designs are influenced by nature.

There is even an organisation called the Biomimicry Institute which has noticed that “nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on earth. This is the real news of biomimicry: After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

Biomimicry experts have identified the following list of core principles in how nature functions:

  1. runs on sunlight and uses only the energy it needs
  2. uses a water-based chemistry
  3. fits form to function
  4. recycles everything
  5. rewards cooperation
  6. banks on diversity
  7. demands local expertise
  8. curbs excesses from within
  9. taps the power of limits

So, the art and science of biomimicry takes these principles and figures out how to make human technologies, infrastructure, and products that adhere to them as well.

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Some examples given in the book, are that the peacock’s brilliant feathers are not created through pigment, but through shape. They have many layers that allow light to bounce off them in different ways, which translate as colour to the naked eye. I had to Google this a bit further, it’s known as ‘structural colouration’ and was first discovered by Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton (2 English scientists). It describes microscopically structured surfaces, fine enough to interfere with invisible light (sometimes in combination with pigments). So, peacock feathers are actually pigmented brown, as you can see when you turn them over. But it’s their microscopic structure that makes them reflect blue, green and turquoise light and they are often iridescent. Butterflies also use this ‘technique’. Perhaps this could avoid the need for toxic dyes to be created, if we could harness a similar technique?

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Mother of pearl is created in cold, salt water – a substance twice as strong as ceramic. Perhaps we could eliminate the use of fossil fuels, in heating kilns to make ceramics? Maybe we could learn to extract metals from cold water?

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The threads that hold a mussel shell to a rock naturally dissolve after 2 years. Perhaps we could study this and learn to create compostable packaging? (I think this one is starting to occur, approx 10 years after the book was written).

I’m not a product designer, but I did once study art. I think it’s fascinating to look at the natural world more closely, even if I was just doing it for beauty’s sake. I would have no idea how to create the intricacies of a leaf, for example, with veins running through it to carry water and nutrients, or cells that contained chlorophyll and knew how to grow, and goodness else knows whatever else goes on in there! But I bet there are scientists who could begin to work on these dilemmas. Perhaps artists could work with scientists to create truly beautiful, functional designs that remained harmless to us and our planet?

It seems to me that there is more to being a designer than just knowing about technology, or engineering, or science. Everything in the natural world seems to hold some innate beauty within it too. I can’t help but come back to the Christian ideas of intelligent design or things being created by someone far cleverer than us. Perhaps the plants and animals haven’t found out what works by trial and error over time? Perhaps they were designed that way from the outset? By someone who already knew the delicate balance of the earth’s chemistry and systems? It’s an interesting thought isn’t it?